Northwest Fork of Three Canyon

Nickname: That’s It?
Fun: 3/5
Difficulty: 1-4/5
Beauty: 2/5
Time: 1.5 hrs down and back up
Hiking: 90%
Rappels: 0-3
Advanced DCs: 0-3
Water: bone dry

There’s really not much to this canyon. An advanced canyoneer who enjoys climbing and a full day adventure would likely prefer to descend the Main (East) Fork of Three and exit via the three upclimbs in the Northwest Fork. If they’re too difficult or the exposure proves unmanageable there’s always the prescribed exit route near the bottom of the fork, which,  incidentally, is itself very exposed.

Another alternative route would be to do the North Fork (which this author has not explored) and the Northwest Fork in the same day,  with perhaps a jaunt along the green in either direction, or up and back down East Three.

Allan and I parked nearby and were in the canyon in less than 10 minutes. The first rappel is obviously downclimable and we mistook it for such. R2 is intimidating due to its height,  a sold 65 vertical feet,  and so I did it with a top belay. The canyon’s lower pouroffs are easily identified by a righthand (western) bypass trail, again very exposed. We turned around above these, realizing we’d completed the canyons interesting parts, though I suspect that the section below the pouroffs is lush and beautiful,  seeing as Three’s lower main fork is said to have perennial flowing water and this is where the Northwest Fork joins it.

I free soloed both rappels and assisted Allan with a top belay on each using a 9mm static line,  a grigri and two locking biners; both raps already had wrql anchors around chokestones. The risk of a big fall is minimal because neither rappel is vertical. You could, however,  slide deeply into the back of either crack, making restarting your climb difficult as both cracks are too narrow there.

The drive to Green River was less than 30 minutes, and Ray’s Tavern turned out two mediocre burgers like usual.

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Northeast Spur Fork Canyon

Nickname: Happy Birthday Canyon
Fun: 5/5
Difficulty: 2/5
Beauty: 5/5
Time: 3+3 hrs
Hiking: 95%
Rappels: 1
Advanced DCs: 2
Water: bone dry

One of the most beautiful canyons this author has had the pleasure of exploring in 60+ canyons over 5 years.

We parked at the Pinon Juniper campsite in Kelsey’s book and did the lower half first; it’s a short and easy hike in (and out at the end of the upper half.) The rappel at the very end really is only about 80 feet, despite looking twice that height from the top. The start is awkward and nerve racking and most of the rappel is free-hanging, thus turning an otherwise beginner-friendly canyon into something solely for those with iron constitutions. Allan was pretty shaken at the bottom. There is also a serious downclimb a little ways before that that looks impossible until you begin the descent and see the great holds around the corner. Above that is a larger natural bridge in a section of slot with beautiful colors and stripes,  fins and chutes.

It’s a 2.5 mile road walk back the way you drove in from the PJ campsite to the parking spot at the top of the canyon, exactly at the Deadman Trail and Spur Rd junction, and from there your best bet is to follow the established trail to the southernmost entrance; that is, the furthest entrance. This way you get to see the colorful slot there, which you can miss by going into the two closer  entries. There is a 2m slide/drop that left my lower legs buzzing and would likely prevent ascending this upper half of the canyon, although experienced climbers might do it with a daring stem maneuver . There is a very good upclimb in a side canyon at a big 4-way junction shortly before the 2m drop, and I want to take Allan back to try it.

All in all, this canyon is a walk-through. It would be an ideal place for an advanced beginner. The upper half is interesting, fun and imminently doable, while the lower half provides a couple of challenging downclimbs (which could all be rigged for rappel; they already have webbing and quicklinks) and a scary but not-dangerous rappel that can be escaped by retreating up canyon to the halfway point entrance in the event it’s too much.

It’s beautiful and fun,  the only barrier is getting they’re – it’s about as remote as you can get in Robbers Roost; 4×4 and extra gas is required for all but the most careful and patient explorers.

Northwest Fork Big Spring Canyon

Fun: 3/5
Difficulty: 3/5
Beauty: 3/5
Time: 2 hrs
Hiking: 60%
Rappels: 6
Water: 1 knee-high wade near the end

Currently our favorite spur canyon. Easy road access. Ibis hook helpful but not necessary. Several hairy downclimbs that were already rigged with webbing and rapide. We took one 80 foot rope,  long enough for all but the final rappel, which is 150-200 ft and so would require a long rope and pull cord. We carried ascending gear but the number and complexity of downclimbs would have made it a grueling chore to go back up.  As it turns out there is an easy exit just above the last rappel and after the last slot and wade. We suspect there is a possible escape below R6 on the right/east,  but  if there’s not then???

Much prettier and challenging than Low Spur, which we did this morning. All in all the road out here,  the Spur Road,  is rough and requires 4×4 and oversize tires,  extra water and gas, and significant patience. The “unused track” that Kelsey describes is not there and we walked all the way to the road on our return to the truck.

Low Spur Canyon

Fun: 2/5
Difficulty: 4/5
Time: 3 hrs
Hiking: 85%
Rappels: 3?
Water: 6″×5’… so not much

Done as a down and back,  with significant difficult upclimbing. One could save an hour by skipping the 2nd to last rappel and downclimb; this nerve racking DC only serves to give you a look at the lower canyon as it opens up,  and you’re downclimbing down a crack that slowly rolls off and spits you out, only to return when you can no longer stomach the exposure. Or, you could take a 200′? rope and do the last rappel,  then walk to the confluence with Horseshoe Canyon and ascend or for 3 or so miles to exit via the old Phillips Oil Co road or to a car spot at Horseshoe Canyons West Trailhead.

Very short slots,  the upper is better with a twisting corkscrew descent, no headlight necessary.

North Fork No Mans Canyon

Nickname: “No man would be interested in this” Canyon
Fun: 1/5
Difficulty: 2/5
Time: ~5 hrs
Hiking: 85%
Rappels: 6
Water: feet stayed dry!

Dont let this canyons proximity to Twin Coral and Larry canyons fool – it’s no epic adventure. In fact, I fully expect to forget about it soon, and leave it out of the guidebook. That said, it has a fork I did not explore (the South Fork) and a small tributary to the North Fork that I did explore (South Branch) that we only saw the very bottom of as part of our exit route. The highlight of this technical decent is the complicated and downright scary final rappel. The most noteworthy part is the grueling hike out.

We followed Michael Kelsey’s beta (map 21 in Hiking and Exploring Utahs Henry Mountains and Robbers Roost) to the recommended parking area at 1664m and rappelled into the head of the North Fork just a stones throw from the truck, literally. The canyon was mostly open walking, especially at first. No significant stemming was needed, although we made several down climbs, some of which required a small jump at the end. Rappel 4 was notable in that despite looking necessary on-sight we quickly realized a downclimb was possible, so we free soloed it in both directions to make sure. It was.
The other rappels and even the slot sections were forgettable, save for rap 6, although rap 5 to the rap 6 stance was a twisting drain set off by a massive chokestone  blocking the slot, a decent reminiscent, albeit much smaller, than the final Pine Creek rappel in Zion.
Rap 6 is big (our rope plus a length of webbing attached to the pull side, about 240′ in all) and took several adjustments to get set up correctly. Deployment is complicated by a slick narrow slot and an abject inability to see the ground. I’d suggest marking your rope ahead of time and double checking everything before you deploy your ropes; we biner-blocked the wrong side of the rope and I had to tie off and switch ropes mid-rappel when u came to the webbing that we’d tied on as an extension so that the pull side of our 200′ Canyon Fire would reach the ground.
The cattle trail exit is unclear – it actually leaves up a side drainage, and several hundred feet must be gained and then relinquished on your meandering climb to  the rim.